Postgame analysis of the Nats' 3-2 win over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night at Nationals Park:
How it happened: Heading in, this game was all about the matchup of Max Scherzer vs. Jordan Zimmermann, two pitchers who were facing their former teams for the first time.
And what a duel this turned out to be.
Scherzer outshined his former rotation mate in a big way, striking out a Nats-record 20 batters en route to a complete game and a 3-2 victory. He became the fifth pitcher to strike out that many in a game, and the first since Randy Johnson did it in May of 2001.
As for the offense, Daniel Murphy (who else?) kickstarted things, putting the Nats up 1-0 in the first and up 2-1 in the sixth on a pair of RBI singles. Danny Espinosa would later add a big insurance run in the bottom of the frame with a solo shot to make it 3-1. The Tigers would draw closer on a J.D. Martinez solo home run, but in the end, Scherzer was too much.
Mad Max returns, makes history: You think Scherzer might have been a little fired up to face his old team? The numbers were eye-popping, but what sutck out the most was the atmosphere at the stadium. By the end of the game, the Nats Park crowd was standing on nearly every two-strike count, and Scherzer would have them roaring each time he racked up another punch out. It was a memorable performance delivered by the Nats' $210 million man, who's had a few of them already in his short tenure with the team.
Zimmermann's homecoming: Not to be outdone in the early going by his former rotation mate, Zimmermann certainly had a solid performance of his own. In his first game back at Nats Park since signing with the Tigers, he countered Scherzer nearly every step of the way before In all, Zimmermann allowed three runs on seven hits over seven innings. But the biggest treat was seeing the 29-year-old right hander greeted warmly by the D.C. faithful, who gave him a standing ovation as he was introduced for his first at-bat.
What it means: That Scherzer's still got it. After an early stretch where he didn't look quite like himself all season, he finally gave the Nats the type of performance they had been getting used to seeing from him for most of 2015. As such, he helped Washington start off its seven-game homestand with a series victory over the scuffling Tigers, which was just what the doctor ordered after the rough series against the Cubs.
What's next: The Nats will enjoy a much-needed day off before beginning a weekend series against the Miami Marlins on Friday night. Washington will send Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 2.19 ERA) to the mound to face Tom Koehler (2-3, 5.83 ERA).